Meal planning is something I have done for as long as I can remember. I meal plan weekly, I attempted to do it monthly but find weekly works best for my family. There are so many different benefits to meal planning which I have shared previously, read more about benefits to meal planning here. It’s one of the key elements that keep my evenings stress free.
I put my meal planner printable in a frame, you can read more about this here and write the plan directly onto the glass, the following week I wipe it off and start again. On a Saturday evening while watching TV or Sunday morning while having my coffee I write out the meals I would like to cook for the week, write up my shopping list, then go do my grocery shopping. Once home I chop up all the fruit and veg into containers, read more about why I do that here.
Two of my favourite benefits to meal planning
Saves my Sanity – 5pm on a busy weekday evening I don’t have to wonder what to cook the family, I have it already planned, with groceries stocked in the fridge and all I need to do is make it. Also, if I happen to be out late with the kids, hubby can look on the planner and make dinner… no excuses why he can’t!!
Saves time – Planning meals and doing one big grocery shop for the week eliminates the need to have to drop into the grocery store every day or two to pick up food for dinner, which then usually results in buying other food which you may not need.
Meal Planning 101
Set aside time – Meal planning doesn’t take too long, it’s just a matter of finding the time to do it. Set aside 10-15 minutes to meal plan: while having your morning coffee, watching TV or could be when the pasta is boiling on the stove.
Clean out your fridge – Before I start to meal plan I look inside my fridge, freezer and pantry and see what foods I could use within my plan. While I’m there I also give it a tidy and clean so it’s ready for when I bring the groceries home.
Have your meal planning tools on hand – Either using one of my (fabulous!!) meal planners or a note pad, jot down the days of the week and write what meals you would like the family to eat this week.
Be inspired – I share my meal plans weekly, they are there to help you with ideas when creating your own plan. You will find more recipe inspiration on other blogs, recipe websites, pinterest, your favourite chefs websites/apps or even in cookbooks or magazines.
Plan around the weekly specials – Create meals based on the specials at your grocery shop, eg. Lamb is half price, then make a lamb stirfry instead of beef.
Think ahead – Make double meals so you don’t have to cook the following night, or you could place a meal in the freezer for a busy night the following week. Make a double batch of potato mash so you can use it for meat and 3 veg tonight, and the left overs on the shepherd’s pie the following night… save yourself time, this is the beauty of meal planning!
Rotate family favourites – Meals don’t have to be something new every night. We have a lot of meat and 3 vegetable dishes, because they are quick, easy and the family like them. Spaghetti Bolognese and mexican are my kids favourites so we make them a regular every few weeks.
Easy dinners are OK – Meals don’t need to be extravagant and time consuming, often we have scrambled eggs on toast for dinner, occasionally we may have Sunday Roast night, but can also be something quick and easy like toasted sandwiches.
Theme your meals – This strategy really helped me when I started meal planning. I assigned a type of meal for a specific day of the week, Mondays were casseroles or oven bakes (as I was able to make these in the afternoon, pop in the fridge, go off to afternoon sport and easily heat in the oven when we got home). Tuesdays were stir fry, Wednesday slow cooker (as we had sport again and having the meal cooking away and ready when we got home was appreciated), Thursday Meat and 3 veg, Friday … you get the idea. Consider the regular events in your diary and determine what type of meal suits those evenings.
Meal planning is not limited to dinners, you can also plan lunch as well. Read more about lunchbox planning here.
Do you Meal Plan, what is your best meal planning tip?
I look forward to sharing the first of my 2014 meal plans with you next week!